Mercedes W14 “a nasty piece of work”, says Wolff

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The German team’s 2023 has been very up-and-down so far. Consistently in the points with both drivers, with Lewis Hamilton almost always in the Top 5 and scoring a podium in Melbourne are all definitely great achievements, and the Miami GP had appeared to be starting on the same positive note with a 1-2 in the first practice session of the weekend.

Yesterday’s qualifying session was instead not as joyful for Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton didn’t make the cut to Q3, and will start from P13, whereas George Russell, who had passed in P10 due to a 0.052s gap to Albon, managed to score a P6 taking advantage of Leclerc hitting the wall and consequent red flag.

The German team’s Team Principal Toto Wolff was extremely critical towards the W14 fielded in the current season, as he said after qualifying: “The car is not a nice car, not a good car. The basic performance of the car is the lack of understanding of the car.”

Asked on the reasons of the definitely not impressive performance shown earlier, Wolff took the blame off the drivers, highlighting the lack of speed shown by the car:

“I would say the performance is just really bad, and for George and Lewis it just really went south. You could see in the first sector the car really wasn’t there. When things go bad they compound bad and this has happened for him and for all of us as a team.

“I take no enjoyment from finishing sixth. It’s the lack of comprehension of what it is that makes this car such a nasty piece of work,” continued Wolff, recalling the final position achieved by Hamilton last time out in Baku.

An important set of upgrades is set to come for the next round in Imola, and the whole team relies on them to try and get the car to act in a more balanced way, as well as to figure out the reason behind its recent mixed behaviour:

“What we’re trying to do with the upgrade is to create a new baseline for us to take question marks, variables out of the equation. And to say, ‘This is not a problem now that we have gone to a different spec’. And that is, for example, from the suspension.”

Wolff highlighted the significance of the package for the Italian round even going as far as to call it a “reset”:

“We are also looking at bodywork solutions that are, let’s say, more conventional than others, and obviously, that will create airflow. So for me, it’s almost like a reset to what would have been a good start 12 months ago, and then to try to add performance to the car, but at the moment, it’s just a lack of understanding.”

The lack of understanding in the car is translated into the paradox of the results scored so far. Wolff explained that the impressive Australian result was made possible by track specific characteristics, which allowed the W14 to perform at its best:

“That is a very front-limited track and we put the car in its sweet spot. It performed well and got better over the weekend. It is the contrary of what has happened here in, that it has gotten worse over the weekend.

“It’s such a narrow operating window that when it’s good, it’s okay. It can deliver a podium. If it’s bad, you’re P13, or P10 realistically, in terms of Lewis,” he concluded, praising the seven times world champion.